December 2nd, 2013 I interviewed my brother Lorenzo Umstead & also did a photoset with him in WestPark Projects entitled ‘11’..located in West Philadelphia, PA(44th&Market)
I conversed with him about his childhood growing up in WestPark, & how it’s influenced him throughout his young life.
1. Being born&raised here in West Philadelphia, PA in WestPark Projects how has that shaped you into the individual you are present day 2013?
Being raised here you would think it was a dread, which it was sometimes.. the existential ramifications can be very dark you know. It’s all these different personalities that you have to get used to. There’s folks living on-top of you, below you & on both sides. But this place made me golden..it taught me honesty, it taught me integrity, it taught me mastery..it taught me resolve and toughness as well because you needed that to survive. It was a brilliant upbringing. Reason why it was brilliant is because I had a father from Durham, North Carolina who was a drug dealer who taught me about the riffs of the streets and how things go down in them, and how a man should carry himself within the streets…just a very real street guy who I had as a father. Then on the other hand, I had a mother from South Philly who was a dental assistant turned early Childcare educator who taught me about my faith, how to love and just constantly telling me to smile. Two totally different people who lived by polar opposite codes, and 34 years later they are still together and I am here today at 21 years of age.
2. Explain your educational background & why you chose to attend catholic institutions from preschool-HS..
I attended St. Ignatius of Loyola elementary from 1st-8th grade and then from there I attended The West Philadelphia Catholic High School. It’s funny because attending catholic school wasn’t really my choice, I thought I had no choice in the matter. It was really a matter of where my parents wanted to send me.
3. Was receiving a catholic/private education, but also living in the housing projects your entire life ever a struggle to balance due to the intense/obvious differences between the two in atmosphere?
It was a total challenge because you had to learn how to properly operate within these two environments. At one place you had to be respectful, holy and studious and in the other environment you sorta had to be stern, tough and just basically a hood “nigga” so the balance was very difficult to master. You know I walked to school everyday, so leaving the pissy hallways of WestPark Projects and then entering the corridors of St. Ignatius and then West Catholic, you kinda had to quickly transform into this young man who when you looked at him “projects” was not the place he wanted you to think he was from.
4. What is your fondest memory growing up in WestPark?
My fondest memory of growing up in WestPark was when I was about 10 years old , chillin’ outside on my bike and a cop said to me “shouldn’t you be in school right now?”..”Do you even go to school?”..and then he says “Does your mom even care about you to send you to school?”..so I replied “I go to Catholic school, today is ‘All Saints Day’, I don’t have school.” The reason why this particular moment is so fond to me is because a place where kids and adults alike get harassed by police, I was able to prove this guy wrong. That story tells the story of my “proper defiance’ or ‘proper rebellion’ if you will..
5. As a 21 year-old king, what advice would you give to a young king/queen who is coming up in the same circumstances you were raised in, & how can they stay on the path to success as yourself?
The advice that I would give would be, just find your own truth..find these answers and you will find a way to master your environment, to master your situation, keep something that is bigger than oneself in your heart and mind, release that positive energy and it will be reciprocated.